Types of Tafsir in Islam

types of tafsir

Many scholars have paid great attention to the interpretation of the Holy Qur’an to reveal its meanings, purposes, and rulings Because the interpretation of the Qur’an is of great importance in contemplating and understanding the Quran word by word, and then working with it, applying it, and coexisting with it in our lives, then good will come to us in this world by applying the Qur’an and salvation on the Day of Resurrection, as it is an intercessor for us and a conciliator in our life and after our death.

What is Tafsir in Islam?

Interpretation is a science that is concerned with understanding and explaining the Qur’an that Allah Almighty revealed to the Messenger of Allah, to facilitate understanding of the Qur’an for all human beings, and what is meant by the revelation of these verses to people.

It is the statement of the word of Allah Almighty on the truth of the revelation of the Noble Qur’an and the understanding of the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, as the Prophet, may blessings and peace be upon him, understand it, and their understanding of the Arabic language.

Therefore, letting the Muslims have time with the Holy Qur’an to understand its meanings will help them later in applying it.

✅ The Muslim understands the legal rulings that are in the verses so that the Muslim is aware of what Allah has permitted and what He has forbidden.

✅ With this interpretation, the Muslim understands the events of the Prophet’s biography

✅ With the interpretation that helps the servant to establish the foundations of faith (faith in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, the Last Day, in Qadar, its good and its bad.

✅ Clarify the stories of the prophets and messengers.

✅ Demonstrate good manners, morals, and honorable manners.

✅ Alerting students of science to the need of the Islamic nation for the science of interpretation.

✅ Clarifying the meanings of the Holy Qur’an and calling people to the Qur’an and working to remind them of it.
✅ Introducing the origins of jurisprudential rulings

✅ Introducing Muslims to the foundations of true faith and beliefs

Who was the first to interpret the Qur’an?

The Prophet was the first to interpret the words of the Qur’an and explain their meanings to the Companions, and after that, the Companions of the Prophet played their role in teaching the people and those who followed after them all that pertains to the Holy Qur’an in terms of interpretation and clarification, until the science of interpretation arose.

What are the Main Principles of Tafsir?

  • Scholars wrote about the origins of interpretation and explained the difference between the transmitted interpretation and the reasonable interpretation, and they clarified when a person can express his opinion, and they distinguished between the praiseworthy and the reprehensible opinion.
  • Scholars have ways of distinguishing between the authentic and the weak
  • The scholars mentioned that the Qur’an is explained by the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the sayings of the predecessors, and in the Arabic language, and the reasons for the revelation of the verses The interpreters’ approaches differed in interpreting the Book of Allah.

The Two Types of Tafsir

The first: Tafsir bill-Ma’thur (or Tafsir bi-Riwayah) received interpretation.
The second: Tafsir bi-Ra’y (or Tafsir bi’d-dirayah) opinion.

We will begin by clarifying the first Tafsir:

The first: Tafsir bi’l-Ma’thur (or Tafsir bi’r-Riwayah) received tafsir
It is intended to interpret the Qur’an depending on what came in the Qur’an itself, the
Sunnah, or the words of the Companions.

It is divided into the following types(methodologies of tafsir) with examples:

A- Tafsit of the Qur’an by the Qur’an

I.e explains each other


-Allah Almighty said: “’ You may’ eat and drink until you see the light of dawn breaking the darkness of night” (Al-Baqarah:187)
His saying: “from the dawn” is a clarification and explanation of what is meant by His saying: “the light of dawn” that preceded it.

-Allah Almighty said: And what will make you realize what the nightly star is?
It is the star of piercing brightness” (At-Tariq:2-3)
His saying: {the piercing brightness} is a statement of the word “al-Tareq” the nightly star that preceded it.

B – Tafsir of the Qur’an by the Sunnah

What has been reported and narrated on the authority of our prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in terms of words, deeds, or reports.


1. Allah Almighty said: “Prepare against them what you ‘believers’ can of ‘military’ power and cavalry” (Al-Anfal:60

It has been interpreted in a hadith
It has been narrated on the authority of Ibn Amir who said:
I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) say-and he was delivering a sermon from the pulpit: Prepare to meet them with as much strength as you can afford. Beware, strength consists of archery. Beware, strength consists of archery. Beware, strength consists of archery.

2. Allah Almighty said: “The sun travels for its fixed term. That is the design of the Almighty, All-Knowing” (Ya-Sin:38)

I asked the Prophet (PBUH) about the Statement of Allah: ‘And the sun runs on the fixed course for a term (decreed), ‘ He said, “Its course is underneath “Allah’s Throne.” (Prostration of Sun trees, stars. mentioned in Qur’an and Hadith does not mean like our prostration but it means that these objects are obedient to their Creator (Allah) and they obey for what they have been created for).

C – Tafsir of the Qur’an with what came and narrated from the Companions(sayings of companions), may Allah be pleased with them, witnessed the revelation.

And the revelation, and they knew and examined the reasons for the revelation, which reveals to them of the meanings of the Book, and the integrity of their instinct and the purity of their souls, and their height in eloquence is what enables them to understand the words of Allah correctly, and what makes them certain of what He wants from His revelation and guidance (the sources of gratitude in the sciences of the Qur’an)


-Allah Almighty said:” When Allah’s ‘ultimate’ help comes and the victory ˹over Mecca is achieved” (An-Nasr:1)

-The Companions, Ibn Abbas’ interpretation of the Almighty’s saying:” When Allah’s ‘ultimate’ help comes and the victory over Mecca is achieved”
Where he interpreted this verse as approaching the death of the Messenger of Allah, may blessings and peace be upon him and his family.

Most Famous Books of Tafsir bi’l-Ma’thur

  1. Tafsir of Ibn Abi Hatim
  2. Tafsir of Ibn Attia
  3. Tafsir al-Tabari
  4. Tafsir of Ibn Abi Shaybah.
  5. Al-Baghawi’s Tafsir
  6. Tafsir of Ibn Katheer.
  7. Al-Suyuti’s Tafsir
  8. Al-Shawkani’s Tafsir

The second: Tafsir bi’r-Ra’y (or Tafsir bi’d-dirayah) opinion:

It is the interpretation of the Qur’an with diligence
In it, the interpreter relies on the rational conclusion of the rulings from the verses, and it is permissible to interpret by opinion for those who are knowledgeable in the Arabic
language, grammar in the Holy Qur’an, and also know the reasons for the revelation of the verses and the correct Sunnah of the Prophet.

In addition to the piety of Allah and sincerity of intention to Allah, by which Allah opens up to His servant
Interpretation by opinion is prohibited for those who do not meet the previous conditions

Here we will come to the types of interpretation by opinion:

✅ The praiseworthy interpretation
✅ Unfavorable interpretation
✅Interpretation by indication, from signs

A- The praiseworthy interpretation

It is what was by the intention of Allah Almighty, with knowledge of the rules and
methods of the Arabic language and divine legislation

B- Unfavorable interpretation

It is the interpretation of the Qur’an without knowledge and interpreting it according to his whim with his ignorance of the Arabic language and its methods and divine
legislation and that he carries the word of Allah with an intention that is not befitting for Him, Glory is to Him.

C- Interpretation by indication, from signs

-It is when the interpreter sees another meaning of the verse
-Any interpretation of the Qur’an unlike the apparent where it is
-This reference and the other meaning of the verse appear for those who are people of knowledge and for those whose hearts Allah opened with faith.


The great commentator, Imam Ibn Jarir, may Allah have mercy on him, used to say: “I am amazed.
Who reads the Qur’an without knowing its meanings, how can he enjoy reading it?”

Qatada – may Allah have mercy on him – says: “No one sits with the Qur’an and then stands up for it except with an addition or an omission.”

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